Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Knoebels + Six Flags America!
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby bill_s » Fri Aug 14, 2020 5:50 pm

Condor wrote: I've noticed racing/dueling makes a bigger difference to some enthusiasts than others. For me it has never mattered much, with Dueling Dragons as the lone exception. Generally if I don't enjoy it as a single coaster, dueling isn't going to change that, but I understand why it would for others.


Even if I didn't find it fun, I'd have to consider Lightning Racer's version of racing fascinating and the design and construction impressive. The common factor of lukewarm reviews of it is not mentioning anything about it racing at all except the name. I also consider it pretty solid as a single coaster too -- and when I first rode it 9 years ago, it was still like new, which was a unusual experience.


As to Skyrush, I hold on to the bars to each side and reduce force. The handles are in a useless position. I don't think there's anything about the restraints which wouldn't be fine on a more normal coaster.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby Condor » Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:22 pm

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Day 2—Knoebels

I had a mission on this visit: either quash or validate my opinion that Phoenix might just be kinda-sorta overrated. I worshiped at the altar of Phoenix my first time at Knoebels. Evening rides with hues of a pink and orange sky over the treetops had tears forming at the corners of my eyes while I laughed and cried from the boundless airtime and buzz bars. I honestly couldn’t decide if it was better than El Toro, Voyage, and Boulder Dash or only as good.

But on my next visit Phoenix was, dare I say underwhelming. I still enjoyed it, but the airtime and freedom of movement the trains offered were more “pleasantly amusing” compared to the borderline euphoric memory I had of it. I dropped it a good twelve places on my wooden coaster list, landing among other “very good but not world class” woodies like Shivering Timbers and Rampage. Twister became my preferred Knoebels coaster and I rode it double what I rode Phoenix, though that had as much to do with my developing a true appreciation for Twister’s unique blend of attributes as it did with Phoenix becoming a slight disappointment. I hoped to firm up my opinion one way or the other on this trip.

Flying Turns was closed for retracking/reprofiling and Impulse was closed because… reasons. Missing out on them this visit wasn’t a concern for me. I like Flying Turns, but it's more of a fun novelty rather than something I come back again and again for, and I don’t like Impulse even a little bit, so no loss for me there. Knoebels stellar collection of new and old school flat rides were all operating minus one or two exceptions, so the park still had more than enough things to do to fill up the 12pm-8pm operating day.

It felt about as crowded as Hersheypark did the day before and Knoebels normal practice of one-train operations on Phoenix and Twister presented the same capacity problem with social distancing measures in place here as it did on Wildcat. If there was a time for Knoebels to go to two-train op on them, this may have been it. I haven’t visited this park as often as some members on here do, so I suppose it’s possible Knoebels does two-train op more than I realize and I just haven’t seen it.

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Flying Turns... It would have been nice to ride it, but I can think of no coaster with worse capacity if adjusted for socially distanced seating. They really wouldn't even need to on it, but it's terrifying to think about.

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Inside the Flying Turns station and transfer track. I do like the look of its trains. Knoebels has always worked hard to lend this ride the utmost authenticity they could.

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Some major retracking/reprofiling was taking place on it. I haven't kept pace with the project, but from the looks of it the end of the ride might be significantly altered.

Phoenix
Look, so Phoenix is still really good. Like seriously good. Like so good it’s almost as good as the very best wooden coaster at Knoebels----Twister! After six rides on it I did in fact rediscover some of my fondness for it. The legendary airtime was only present on half of the hills in my estimation, but even I couldn’t help myself from stupidly grinning like a Godzilla fan in Shinjuku on the return run of bunny hops at the end. It’s impossible not to at the very least really like this coaster, even if I have to face that it's just not going to be one of my favorites again. I favor intensity over easy-going fun and re-rideability in most of my top coasters. Phoenix is not that kind of ride and that’s fine. Even I wouldn’t want every coaster to be like that. 8.5/10

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Phoenix is the rare airtime coaster without airtime on the first drop. It's just there to get you up to speed. The good stuff comes later.

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Phoenix is not the easiest coaster to photograph from inside the park. But since Knoebels doesn't really have a "inside the park" I walked around behind it by a bunch of homes/offices and maintenance areas, none of which were off limits, to find some different angles.

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Probably the strongest airtime moments on the ride - the final two hills before the turnaround into the brakes.

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I love how the antique cars form a neighborhood park-like setting around Phoenix and drive through its structure.

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The down side of Phoenix's iconic double-up-double-down.

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Another particularly strong airtime moment.

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The ride's first bit of air comes on the drop off the first turnaround.

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Phoenix's second lap is where you really can appreciate the single-position buzz bars.

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Twister
Now this is my kind of wooden coaster. It felt maybe a hair slower and a touch tamer than last time, but half-empty trains can do that sometimes. Regardless, Twister is unique, aggressive, and relentless. It’s also quite smooth, superbly so for such a laterals-focused ride running PTCs. I spotted plenty of fresh wood so it’s evident Knoebels believes in taking immaculate care of a coaster that probably doesn’t generate the kind of ridership or publicity Phoenix does. Twister is an underrated airtime coaster too. While the ride ops kept thwarting me by assigning me rows one or two on all but my final ride (imagine trying explain that to an average guest, “Dammit, I got the front again!”), the back seat delivers sharp airtime on the two big drops and at several points between the helix and the brakes. And if you do ride up front, you’ll get that second half air there too. 9/10

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Something about Twister makes it look massive as you approach from the road bordering the main park.

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The Elitch Gardens Mister Twister is in my top 5 coasters I'd bring back from the dead. If Knoebel's more compact, near-replica is an indication, I'm sure I would have loved the original.

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Watching Twister speed through the helix circling the station is a great way to build anticipation while in line.

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My second favorite wooden coaster helix after the slightly more ferocious one on Legend at Holiday World.

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The curved station is a nice touch. I don't know if there was a structural reason for including it or if was done to emulate Mister Twister. Either way it's just one more thing that makes this ride unique.

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Like Phoenix, Twister's best angles can be found by walking behind the coaster, in this case through Knoebels' campground.

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It's not Boulder Dash or anything, but Twister has just a bit of terrain coaster going on.

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Strong airtime in front or back before hitting the brakes.

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About to enter the concrete tunnel. This tunnel absolutely HOWLS during night rides.

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Twister is an underrated airtime coaster. It isn't the focus, but what's there is strong and abrupt. The first bit comes in the back during the second drop.

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I finally got the Kosmo's Kurves credit after forgetting about it last time. This is a kiddie coaster done right. Just thrilling enough, yet not intimidating.

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Phoenix's line ran a consistent 20-25 minutes by mid afternoon. I have only ever seen it run one train and the ride ops always have the same reply, "We like it to have a more sustainable line," which I've never fully understood. If it's strictly about maintenance costs then I get it. But otherwise, I'd think a park operating on a ticketed pay-per ride system would want to increase throughput as much as possible to spur more ticket sales. But I don't know as much about Knoebels as some people on here. Maybe I'm missing something.

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Phoenix's second train valiantly campaigned to help with capacity during social distancing, but its efforts were constantly rebuffed. I think it looks sad here.

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The Flyers, the third best ride in the park. Not that Knoebels is the kind of park that needs to serve beer, but if they did, the flyers might just become THE best!

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See ya Impulse. I might'a ridden ya if ya were open, might'a not.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby Condor » Fri Aug 14, 2020 9:00 pm

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Day 3—Six Flags America

I have to say, I never thought I’d be here. And I don’t mean that the same way I meant it when I described laying eyes on Steel Dragon 2000 for the first time. I legitimately saw no reason to include this park on a plethora of trips that have taken me right by it. And there goes my harsh, elitist, coaster enthusiast shadow bubbling to the surface. Carl Jung would be so proud, I swear.

In lighter terms, Six Flags America was never that interesting to me. Service and operations are notoriously poor, there’s no shade, and even its parent company sees it as Six Flags Great America’s abortion clinic. It’s surrounded in all directions by better-run parks with superior coaster collections and every trip report or YouTube video I’ve seen about the place could probably be adapted into a Blumhouse movie. I’m still not doing a very good job at keeping this light, am I?

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The thing is, I actually had a really good time. Visiting a park known for long lines and slow operations during a pandemic might just have been my magic ticket. I got three rides on Superman, two on Firebird, two on Roar, and one on everything else that was operating all in the three hours I had allotted before driving back to Dulles for my flight home. Would I have enjoyed Six Flags America the same had I attended on a non-pandemic summer day? Well I have no idea, but I suspect not, so I’m glad I visited when I did.

The first thing that surprised me is how big this park is. Its stature within the chain might suggest something other than a sprawling behemoth of a park, but that’s exactly how it felt. It reminded me a little of Six Flags Great Adventure with how the impression of size is further inflated by a convoluted layout with lots of dead ends. If Six Flags ever saw reason to ramp up investment here, they certainly have the space to build. It was bright, clean (though that may have been the lack of people), and probably would feel a lot different if all it added were a few tree-lined midways.

I feel for the locals who have patronized this place for years. You haven’t gotten a legitimate new coaster since Batwing in 2001. But at least to me, the coasters here stack up nicely against those at Discovery Kingdom or St. Louis. The only coaster closed was Wild One, unfortunately one of the three that really interested me along with Superman and Firebird. I saw a couple of test runs right around the time I had to leave, but ride ops said they didn’t know when it would open. An enthusiast I met told me it eventually opened about an hour after I left. I still want to ride it. An excuse to go back? I won’t get ahead of myself, but never say never.

Superman: Ride of Steel
I guess I’m a latecomer to the S:ROS clones. I rode Six Flags New England’s improved version, which as most know, is not a clone at all, a decade ago and I’m just now getting around to one of its predecessors. While an Intamin hyper is always something to get excited about, this layout is just so simple and bland I that it was never much of a blip on my radar. Would I have made more of a point to seek it out had it been at a different park with a better reputation? Probably. After riding it, I’m a fan. This is still a great coaster. It may not be its New England brother, but I can see why it remains in high esteem. The ejector airtime and forceful helixes are all there, just in simplified form. I found the sustained sense of speed reminiscent of Millennium Force. The straight track and low, wide turns mimic the sensation of its bigger giga-cousin quite well. The only down aspect of the ride I found was the trim before the final bunny hill. It diminishes one last pop of airtime, but I can see why it’s needed given how comically short the brake run is. After three rides I even decided I preferred it to Candymonium. A very surprising 9/10!

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Soaring over the trees and the expanse of flat land SFA is built on amplify Superman's size. 200 foot hyper coasters are commonplace now, but this one feels huge.

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I didn't even realize I caught the Roar train when taking this shot.

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This hill, the second to last, has plenty of airtime, but the trim on the descent drastically slows the hill that follows.

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Drops of 70 degrees don't look as steep today as they did 20 years ago, but that doesn't mean one can't still deliver great ejector air!

Joker’s Jinx
I wonder if these Premier LIM bowl coasters were 15-20 years ahead of their time. Sure Premier built a handful of them, but I suspect they might have been even more popular today. Would we have seen these popping up as frequently as the Sky Rocket II models? Just maybe. I only rode once, but I would happily have done more if I wasn’t limited on time. 7.5/10

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Who doesn't love the look of a Premier LIM-bowl?

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Joker and Poltergeist are especially fun since they lack the MCBRs found on the Flight of Fear twins.

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At Six Flags America Wonder Woman isn't a RMC single rail or a Zamperla Giant Discovery, she's a Star Flyer!

Firebird
My interest in Firebird was rooted in it strictly as a historical curiosity. What enthusiast doesn’t want to have the original B&M on their ledger? For anyone who may not know, Firebird was once the standup coaster Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America, opening all the way back in 1990. I never got to ride it at its old home or with the standup trains, but finally checking it off my list felt like a right of passage. Iron Wolf was long known as an uncomfortable ride and it stayed that way after its relocation to SFA as Apocalypse. Some still say that even now after its floorless conversion. So imagine my surprise when I found this coaster to be a blast. I didn’t think it was rough. It felt like a moderately intense, unique little looper that was smooth enough given its age. I enjoy B&M’s earliest layouts that were often light on inversions and high on tight twists and turns and this is a great example of it. It’s a true spiritual predecessor in more ways than one to a favorite of mine, Georgia Scorcher. Firebird is longer, smoother, and better than CGA’s Patriot, another standup-to-floorless conversion of similar vintage, and I’d also take it over several ground-up floorless coasters like Hydra, Batman: The Dark Knight, Bizarro, and Scream. 7.5/10

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Even if you aren't impressed with Firebird as a coaster, you have to be at least a little impressed with the effort Six Flags put towards its presentation.

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I was surprised how much I liked it.

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The first drop has a slight kink in it halfway down you would never see on a B&M built today.

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Batwing
I was looking forward to this one too. I’ve always thought the second-gen Vekoma flyers are good rides. X-Flight was my favorite coaster at Geauga Lake and I remained a loyal supporter when Cedar Fair moved it to Kings Island as Firehawk. I was disappointed when they announced it would be removed, although I understood the reason for it. I cannot say the same for Nighthawk at Carowinds. That one tracks much rougher and its double corkscrew finale is less satisfying than the inline twists into a helix combo seen on Firehawk and its twin, Batwing. Fortunately Batwing feels exactly like Firehawk. Riding up the lift hill on your back will always suck when the sun is out, but after that I enjoy every element. This is a punchy, forceful layout and I’ll take Batwing over a Superman: Ultimate Flight clone any day. 8/10

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Batwing looks kind of SBNO without a train running.

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With Firehawk gone, I'm glad its clone remains, even if it has to be at a park I'm unlikely to visit often.

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Batwing doesn't spend as much time flying as the B&M models do, but its standard set of elements provokes very different sensations in the flying or prone positions than when seated. The second-gen Vekoma layout is a good one.

Roar
I rode this twice. First was a cautious attempt in the middle of the train where I was so pleasantly encouraged by the comfortable ride experience and two pops of airtime(!) that I immediately went back around to try out the back seat. It did not go well. It was at least as rough and possibly rougher than Wildcat, which isn’t all that surprising considering this GCI still runs PTC trains. My memories of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s Roar aren’t vivid, but I recall coming off of it with a similar opinion. The Roar layout is a good one, better than Wildcat’s, but without the dedicated trackwork necessary to keep it in good shape, it just tears itself up. 5/10 on the strength of a better than expected first ride.

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Do rock monsters have vocal cords?

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Roar has the same aesthetic design symmetry that I liked in Wildcat. It just doesn't translate on-ride.

Mind Eraser
Not the worst SLC I’ve ridden! This one doesn’t have new trains or restraints, but the headbanging was manageable. I’d like to see Six Flags upgrade all their SLCs the way they have with Six Flags New England’s Mind Eraser (or Riddler Revenge now I guess…) 5/10

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Rajun’ Cajun
I can see why this little spinner has developed a bit of a cult following. If I were a Chicago local, I’d be disappointed Six Flags Great America lost it. When left to run unhinged without significant trim-braking these Reverchon spinning coasters are downright thrilling. I’m talking alarming amounts of spinning during the second half. Not since the even more unhinged (and sadly SBNO) Raton Loco at Mexico City’s La Feria have I spun this much on a coaster. If I had a full day here I would have gone back for seconds. 7/10

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I got to watch Wild One test a couple of empty trains, but the credit eluded me. I won't rule out coming back one day.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby IanKgtr » Sun Aug 16, 2020 9:13 am

Excellent reports and photo compositions, Condor. Really enjoyed reading these. You have a way with words.

I used to op Skyrush so I am incredibly partial to it myself [see avatar]. Sad to hear about the closure of that path. It was awe-inspiring to watch that thing fly across the water and absolutely truck over the airtime hills, and to observe the unique distribution of thrill/terror/pain on every train.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby thrillseeker4552 » Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:16 pm

Great reports! I am glad to see a generally positive review of SFA. That park seems to be the punching bag of Six Flags.

I am a pretty big critic of Firebird, but I also only rode it once in the front seat. Perhaps riding it a few times in different seats would've changed my opinion of it. But to be honest, we just wanted to book it as soon as possible and head to Kings Dominion! I will admit that I am a big fan of Joker's Jinx though (and Poltergeist for that matter). Those two are infinitely better than both Flight of Fears and it baffles me why.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby bill_s » Mon Aug 17, 2020 2:11 am

SFA has become my temporary (hopefully) home park and it's a good park. Too bad about missing Wild One, I'm on the fence if it or Superman is the best ride there (after Renegade Rapids ;) ).

Can't agree about Joker's Jinx vs. the far superior Flight of Fear though.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby CenturyFlyer » Mon Aug 17, 2020 7:24 am

Man, I do love Twister... and Phoenix... so much. Twister is for when you feel up for a great dose of wooden coaster intensity, but it's nice to know that Phoenix will always be right there if you want to take a "break" from the laterals. Knoebels really does go for quality over quantity, and I enjoyed the SFA report too! I will have to go there one day just for the experience and because it's really not that far away.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby grsupercity » Mon Aug 17, 2020 3:33 pm

Looks like you had a good time at SFA! I have yet to ride a superman ride of steel clone and it looks good. Enjoyed reading your reports
After riding Lightning Run I can not understand why parks are not lining up to buy some Hyper GTX models. That little ride rocks

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